UPDATED: There is a lizard sex satellite floating in space and Russia no longer has it under control


Space lizards, out of control. (EPA/Luong Thai Linh)

UPDATE: Good news! Russia has regained control of the Foton-M4 satellite. They believe that most of the experiments will still be viable, according to a Russian space agency official quoted by RT.com. All is well.

At this very moment, a Russian satellite full of geckos -- (possibly) having sex -- is floating around in space -- and mission control has lost the ability to control it.

The Foton-M4 research satellite launched on July 19 with five geckos on board. The plan: To observe their mating activities in the zero-gravity conditions of Earth orbit. Several other earthly creatures, including plants and insects, were also placed on board for experiments.

But shortly after the satellite made its first few orbits, it stopped responding to commands from mission control. The equipment on board, however, is still sending scientific data back to earth, a spokesman for Russia's Institute of Biomedical Problems said.

"The biological experiments started as soon as the satellite was launched," Institute press secretary Oleg Voloshin told RIA Novosti on Thursday. "The scientific equipment used for the experiments operates properly. We receive the telemetry data from the spacecraft and analyze it. … The current tasks have so far been fulfilled."

Teams of experts are working to reestablish a connection to the satellite, according to the company that built Foton-M.

"Specialists of the main mission control group are currently working to establish sustainable contact with the satellite and implement the planned program for the flight," the Progress company said on its Web site, according to Interfax.

In the meantime, those lizards are being left more or less alone, to do as nature intended for the rest of the 60 days mission.

Abby Phillip is a general assignment national reporter for the Washington Post. She can be reached at abby.phillip@washpost.com. On Twitter: @abbydphillip
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